If you find it difficult to sleep during most nights you may be suffering from a sleep disorder called insomnia. If you can answer "yes" to any of the following questions, you may have insomnia:
Nowadays, insomnia can be brought on by the ubiquitous technological devices which incessantly capture our attention 24/7 (e.g., iphones, blackberries, ipads, etc.). The body has a natural tendency to be regulated by its own biorhythms. This means that your body prefers consistency. Therefore you should develop the habit of retiring to bed about the same time each and every night. Consider it your goal and plan to get at least seven hours of nightly sleep and then do it. Here are some tips to get more restful sleep:
- Do you have trouble going to sleep or staying asleep?
- Do you snore loudly and/or heavily?
- Are you excessively sleepy or do you lack energy in the daytime?
- Do you have trouble with concentration or memory loss?
- Do you fall asleep while driving, in meetings, while reading a book, or while watching TV?
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine and nicotine at least two hours before bedtime--caffeine and nicotine are stimulants which can enhance your metabolic rate while alcohol causes fragmented sleep.
- Refrain from exercising within 4 hours before bedtime--you're more likely to get to sleep when your body temperature and metabolism have decreased.
- Turn off all electronic devices and light--your room should be quite and very dark (wear an eye mask to block out all light) to avoid stimulating your brain's pineal gland which regulates melatonin, the hormone which promotes drowsiness. Exposure to light suppresses the release of melatonin keeping you alert. Blue light emitted from a computer LED screen in a darkened room can delay the onset of sleep and reduce deep sleep if the computer is left on while sleeping.
- Reduce your thermostat temperature (i.e., down to 65 degrees Fahrenheit)--decreased ambient temperature encourages better sleep (bonus: cooler temperatures stimulate your body's metabolic rate which aids in keeping you lean).
- Avoid using your snooze alarm--your snooze alarm will not be needed as your body has its own internal "alarm" for waking up, provided you go to bed at a regular time and make an allowance for at least seven hours of sleep prior to wake-up time. By the way, if the first sound you hear in the morning upon waking up is an alarm then you are sleep-deprived! You should not have to rely on an alarm clock to wake you up. If you do, then strive to get to sleep earlier so that you can awaken feeling completely refreshed and full of energy.
- Go to bed only when feeling sleepy and if while in bed you find yourself unable to get to sleep, get out of bed and do a non-arousing activity (i.e., light reading, reciting lyrics from favorite songs, listening to calm instrumental music).
- If you can't get to sleep because your mind is racing with thoughts about the next day or whatever, jot your ideas down on note paper in order to let your thoughts go.
- Get yourself a white-noise machine and use it to drown out ambient noises outside (esp. in a big city).
- Perform sleep rituals (i.e., listen to relaxing music, do some light reading, drink decaffeinated tea, stretch, take a hot bath, etc.)--this gives the body/brain cues that it's almost time to get to sleep.
- Only use your bed for sleeping with the exception of extracurricular activities (i.e., sex)--avoid watching TV, reading mail, doing work while in bed.
- Have sex before going to sleep--performing sex releases hormones like serotonin which causes sleepiness.
- Have a light snack before bedtime (e.g., milk, turkey, cottage cheese, etc.)--feelings of hunger can interfere with sleep.
Poor posture is usually indicative of weak and/or tight core muscles (e.g., weak erector spinae, weak gluteals, weak abdominals, and especially tight hamstrings). Your posture is tremendously affected by how you "hold" your body throughout the day. If you slump in your chair most of the day with your shoulders hunched over and your lower back in perpetual excessive stretch, your body will respond accordingly (i.e., sunken chest, chronic lower back pain). It is essential to strengthen as well as stretch your core muscles to alleviate the tendency to assume bad posture. The solution to alleviating lower back pain does NOT come in a pill. You must strengthen your core muscles, especially your abdominals and lumbar. Some key aspects to focus on while performing the following exercises include:
Here are some recommended exercises to get you on the right path toward having better posture: Execution: Lie on your back and pull in one knee while extending and elevating the other leg to about 45 degrees. Flatten your lower back against the floor and draw in your navel toward your spine. If your lower back arches, raise the elevated leg higher. Perform 12 to 15 leg raises per side. Execution: Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Flatten your lower back against the floor and draw in your navel toward your spine. Now press each hand against your thighs while lifting your head and shoulders off the floor. Hold the top position briefly before s-l-o-w-l-y lowering your back against the floor. Ideally, only your lower back should contact the floor on the descent. Perform 12 to 15 curl-ups. Execution: Lie on your back with legs extended and flat on the floor. Flatten your lower back against the floor and draw in your navel toward your spine. Now raise your arms (elbows straight) over your shoulders with thumbs interlocked while lifting your head and shoulders off the floor. Continually raise your body, one vertebra at a time until you are in a full sit-up position. Perform 12 to 15 sit-ups. Execution: Lie on your back with one knee tucked in and the other leg extended and elevated. Flatten your lower back against the floor and draw in your navel toward your spine. Now place your hands behind your head and rotate one elbow to its opposite knee. Rotate to the other side as you draw in the other knee while extending the opposite leg. Perform these movements in a s-l-o-w fashion to achieve the most benefit. Perform 12 to 15 rotations.
- Draw in your naval toward your spine
- Move s-l-o-w-l-y but purposely
- Breathe evenly and do NOT hold your breath
Execution: Lie on your stomach with palms flat on the floor beside your ribs and legs extended. Draw in your naval toward your spine and lift your chest and legs off the floor without bending your knees. Pause in the top position before s-l-o-w-l-y lowering your body to the floor. Perform 12 to 15 reps. Execution: Get down onto the floor with hands/elbows and knees with palms/elbows under the shoulders. Extend both legs behind you with toes pointed toward the floor (i.e., initial push-up position). Drop your hips to achieve an alignment while drawing in your naval toward your spine. Be sure to look only slightly ahead but still in a downward direction. Hold this position for a duration of one minute. Perform this posture 2 to 3 times.
- Cobra with hyperextension
Some of these tips you most likely have heard before. Nevertheless, these words of wisdom bear repeating because in the great scheme of things you will lose body weight from unwanted fat if you abide by the following:
If you do this you're asking for trouble. That is, you're much more likely to make impulse purchases for junk food and stray from your shopping list. Your willpower to resist the temptation to buy that carton of ice cream or pizza will be significantly reduced when you enter the supermarket hungry. Instead, eat something healthy or have a snack (e.g., yogurt with wheat germ, cottage cheese, or an apple) at least a half hour before you go food shopping.
- Never go shopping on an empty stomach
If you don't buy junk food (e.g., soda, chips, ice cream, etc.) by resisting the temporary impulse for sugar or salt, then logically the food will not be available to splurge when at home. If the junk food is not readily available, you're much less likely to eat it. Chances are you will not go out of your way to make a run to the convenience store just to buy a bag of potato chips to satisfy a short-lived craving. If you just can't resist and do buy that bag of chips, you might as well satisfy that urge and finish the bag as soon as possible or eat some and discard the rest.
- Never store junk food in your house
Like the aforementioned tips, this one is also psychological. In this case, the visual cue of food on a smaller plate will make the food appear relatively more plentiful than on a larger plate. As a result, you'll more likely eat less food overall when served on a smaller plate than on a larger plate. Drinking about 2 cups of cold water can temporarily boost metabolic rate due to an increase in the release of norepinephrine. Water, which by the way has no calories, is nature's quick fix to satisfy temporary cravings for sugar or salt. In addition, water will satiate your appetite and therefore lessen your desire for junk food. Drinking soda inhibits your brain's ability to respond adequately to caloric intake, causing you to feel hungrier than normal and therefore eat more overall calories. The sweet taste may increase insulin release which blunts fat-burning and enhances fat storage.
- Eat off of smaller plates
This tip is especially significant for women but some men also resort to "comfort foods" (e.g., chocolate, ice cream, etc.) to manage stress, frustration, anxiety, irritability, etc. The way to avoid this trap is to confront your emotion head-on and deal with it in another manner without relying on foods to "self-medicate" to make you feel better. A high-protein diet increases satiety. This means that you'll feel less hungry throughout the day. Since protein tends to decrease appetite, it stands to reason you will eat less food overall throughout the day. Less food means less calories which means you will lose weight and possibly bodyfat, particularly abdominal fat, in the process. Good protein sources are eggs (contain all essential amino acids and healthy fats), meats (esp. fish such as salmon which are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and red meat which supports testosterone levels), low-fat cheeses (a good source for casein protein), and nuts. Also consider drinking whey and/or soy protein shakes in between meals. Make your protein shake with a thicker consistency by using less water or milk to further reduce appetite later. Complex carbs consist of whole grains such as brown rice, oatmeal and whole-wheat bread. These foods help to keep insulin levels low and steady and therefore prevent the spikes in your blood sugar levels. A steady sugar level tends to favor more fat burning rather than fat storage. Avoid refined carbs such as white bread, white rice and pasta which can increase abdominal fat storage.
Yes, this seems counterintuitive but the reality is you can promote more fat burning from your body by eating more of the healthy, omega-3 fats found in fatty fish (e.g., salmon, sardines, trout), fish oil, olive oil, peanut butter, avocados, and nuts (e.g., almonds, walnuts). You probably heard of the grapefruit diet which is quite effective in enabling one to lose bodyweight. I'm not advocating a diet of just grapefruit because the nutrient deficiencies inherent can be substantial. Rather, eat a half grapefruit regularly (e.g., breakfast) and your insulin levels may be reduced. Apples are a complex carb which contain antioxidants such as polyphenols which may enhance fat loss. Hot peppers contain capsaicin, a chemical known to promote calorie-burning at rest as well as reduce hunger and therefore food intake. Research has shown that this chemical boosts fat-burning during exercise. Add crushed red pepper, hot peppers or hot pepper sauce to your meals to burn extra calories and fat. It's the calcium found in dairy products that can spur fat loss. Calcium regulates the hormone calcitriol which causes the body to produce fat and inhibits fat-burning. When calcium levels are adequate, calcitriol and fat production are suppressed and fat-burning is enhanced. Eat foods such as cottage cheese, low-fat cheese, yogurt (Greek is recommended) and drink milk. The main ingredient in green tea is epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) which inhibits an enzyme which breaks down norepinephrine. Norepinephrine is a neurohormone which stimulates the metabolic rate and therefore enhances caloric expenditure.
- Eat more unsaturated fats